AREAS OF LEARNING
PERSONAL, SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL
Our environment is welcoming and friendly, and designed around the children’s needs and interests. We nurture strong relationships with our children through our key person system and have good relationships with parents, carers and other settings where a child may attend. Our aim is to build self-confidence and self-awareness by gentle intervention and encouragement.
COMMUNICATION AND LANGUAGE
We never expect very young children to sit for long periods. We slowly build up their concentration and listening skills at Circle Time by starting with short, familiar stories and poems. Action songs help build up concentration and reinforce language. Giving children time to talk about anything they want to share with their group is important, as well as encouraging them to listen to others. By introducing and explaining new words during stories or whilst discussing topics which interest the children, we build up language skills and vocabulary. Open-ended questions and sustained, shared thinking ensures that we help children think for themselves, rather than simply providing the answers.
Sophie takes small groups of children for fun French sessions using puppets, music and games.
The children are given daily opportunities for large and small motor skills. We recognise that children need to practise repetitive large motor skills such as digging and building. Messy play also develops the control which will later be refined for writing. The children are encouraged to experiment with different kinds of movement such as jumping, climbing and hopping. All children are given daily opportunities for messy play and access to sand, water and mud. Before we introduce crayons or pencils, children are invited to mark-make with lots of different media, both inside and outside the classroom, to build up their small motor control. There are also daily opportunities for Montessori Practical Life exercises (pouring and spooning beans or squeezing pegs, for example) in order to form the ‘tripod’ grip necessary to hold a pencil. Role-play is excellent for developing mark-making with meaning (such as menu boards, doctors’ prescriptions) and we ensure that suitable materials are always close by.
Little Foxes Club take the children in two activity groups on Friday morning. The children also use balls, hoops and bats during daily play. There are benches for balancing on and climbing over and under which we incorporate in circuit-type activities. Games such as ‘Traffic Lights’ help children negotiate space and adjust their speed. Children are also taught how to relax during our weekly yoga sessions with Sophie.
Children are introduced to phonic sounds individually once they show an interest and we use Montessori Sandpaper Letters which reinforce the way in which letters are physically written. We use lots of fun games and appealing equipment (such as small boxes with objects and magic bags) and adapt phonic learning to children’s individual interests. For example, playing ‘Pirate Letter Bingo’ or searching for ‘treasure’ (letter tiles) in the sand tray, ‘I Spy’ and memory games. Rather than photocopied worksheets, we make individual books which the children can take home and share with their parents. If appropriate, children progress from letter sounds to blending three-letter words and reading short phrases and books. Our main emphasis, however, is on providing children with a strong phonic foundation and a love of books and stories. All children take a library book home to share with their family once a week.
MATHS & NUMBERS
Our children are offered daily opportunities based around numbers using Montessori maths equipment such as the Sandpaper Numerals for number recognition and ordering. Group games such as Number Bingo can be adapted to suit the numerals each child is working with. Construction play is perfect for comparing quantities, length or height. Practitioners introduce concepts such as simple addition and subtraction using small toys in a fun way to begin with. Time, measuring and patterns are introduced according to children's interests and often incorporated into role-play games. There are also many opportunities during our daily routine for all of us to introduce counting, sorting and number recognition in a natural way. For example, when threading beads, giving out the cups, playing ‘What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?’ in the garden or celebrating a birthday. There is a ‘Number Circle Time’ for small groups once a week with our special ‘Foxy’ puppet.
Children are given the freedom to access a wide range of materials and are encouraged to use their own creative ideas. There is a balance of some adult-led art activities where children need support to discuss materials and textures, for example, but the end-product is always the design of the child. We provide opportunities for daily messy play where the emphasis is on the process and having fun. We have music sessions with our guitarist Vladimir and we sing informally with the children at Circle Time. We recognise that children may want to sing and dance spontaneously in the classroom or outside and we support this too. Role play is an important part of our curriculum and the children are given access to all parts of the classroom and garden. We support their language and vocabulary skills if appropriate, always remembering not to take over their own creativity.
UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD
We support the children by talking about their families and friends. We encourage children to compare and contrast similar and different material, places and objects. Children can look for mini-beasts in the garden and help with gardening and planting. There is an emphasis on looking after the environment and taking responsibility by recycling materials and sweeping up leaves in the garden. The children are encouraged to participate in messy ‘experiments’ in the classroom or outside and to anticipate ‘what might happen next?’ Children have access to child-friendly cameras, cd-players and keyboard toys.